Thursday, June 30, 2005

Only the French

Quite honestly, if the French are actually DIVIDED over a proposed memorial to their own terrorists (the OAS, which tried to assassinate De Gaulle -- a plot that became the basis for the famous Frederick Forsyth book and movie The Day of the Jackal), how can you actually expect them to smarten up about world terrorism?

Morons. What rational populace would honor domestic terrorists?



To all (both?) of our readers: sorry for the radio silence. Wongdoer is in Ecuador for a long weekend because so many Ecuadorans celebrate Independence Day. Or maybe it's b/c a friend of his is getting married.

One or the other.

The Monk has been running around N. Texas all day, therefore I need to catch up a bit. I may even try to learn what's going on before commenting on it.

And as for Gary Sheffield: STFU -- if the Yanks want to trade you, show the team that does the trade that it made a mistake. Personally, I think Cameron/Cairo for Sheffield is a dumb deal for the Yanks: they could've kept Cairo for cheap this offseason so his presence is a nullity. That makes it a Cameron/Sheffield deal and on the merits that's stupid.

And as for Kenny Rogers: this is the problem with guaranteed contracts. In the NFL, the team could just cut his a-- and not worry about anything else like paying his enormous salary. Rogers wanted big money from the Rangers in an extension; the Rangers said play out this season and we'll see; Rogers got a great start but the team thinks he's ducking the BloSax and Angels because if they pound him and inflate his baseball numbers, his bank account will suffer. Wuss. And it's not like he's a money pitcher anyway. His postseason line: 0-3, 8.85 ERA, 20.1 IP, 32 H, 20 ER, 16 BB, 15 K. Man, that's awful.

Quote of the day

From the Gerald Baker's interview with Pres. Bush in the London Times:

General (John) Abizaid (Commander of US forces in the Middle East) told me something very early in this campaign I thought was very interesting. Very capable man. He’s a Arab-American who I find to be a man of great depth and understanding. [He said] [w]hen we win in Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s a beginning of the end. Talking about the war on terror. If we don’t win here, it’s the beginning of the beginning. And that’s how I view it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A don't miss interview

John Hawkins of Right Wing News interviews Mark Steyn. Good stuff, especially an interesting comment by Steyn about the structure of US newspaper column syndication and why he doesn't care to get more wide newspaper distribution in the US.

Hide the Baracks

Peggy Noonan has a sharp eye for the political scene, but usually not too sharp of a pen. Not so today, as she slices and dices Barack Obama, John Paul Stevens, Dick Durbin and other solipsistic members of our "ruling class". Some prime cuts:

This week comes the previously careful Sen. Barack Obama, flapping his wings in Time magazine and explaining that he's a lot like Abraham Lincoln, only sort of better. "In Lincoln's rise from poverty, his ultimate mastery of language and law, his capacity to overcome personal loss and remain determined in the face of repeated defeat -- in all this he reminded me not just of my own struggles."

Oh. So that's what Lincoln's for. Actually Lincoln's life is a lot like Mr. Obama's. Lincoln came from a lean-to in the backwoods. His mother died when he was 9. The Lincolns had no money, no standing. Lincoln educated himself, reading law on his own, working as a field hand, a store clerk and a raft hand on the Mississippi. He also split some rails. He entered politics, knew more defeat than victory, and went on to lead the nation through its greatest trauma, the Civil War, and past its greatest sin, slavery.

Barack Obama, the son of two University of Hawaii students, went to Columbia and Harvard Law after attending a private academy that taught the children of the Hawaiian royal family. He made his name in politics as an aggressive Chicago vote hustler in Bill Clinton's first campaign for the presidency.

You see the similarities.

She even gives Obama a pass on denigrating Lincoln's legacy as the Great Emancipator. BTW, Obama has become exactly what I thought Ron Kirk would transform into if he had won the Senate race against John Cornyn in 2002 (and this is why I would not vote for Kirk): a knee-jerk, follow-the-Left, toe-the-line Democrat partisan who ran as a moderate, cross-the-aisle, good-for-business, uniter-not-divider moderate.

But wait, there's more:

The Supreme Court this week and last issued many rulings, and though they were on different issues the decisions themselves had at least one thing in common: They seemed to reflect a lack of basic human modesty on the part of many of the justices. Many are famously very old, and they have been together as a court for a very long time. One wonders if they have lost all understanding of how privileged they are to have lifetime sinecures of power and authority. Do they have any sense anymore of common human wisdom, of the normal human arrangements by which Americans live?

Maybe a lot of them aren't bothering to think. Maybe Ruth Bader Ginsburg is no longer in the habit of listening to arguments but only of watching William Rehnquist, and if he nods up and down she knows to vote "no," and if he shakes his head she knows to vote "yes." That might explain some of the lack of seriousness in the decisions. Local government can bulldoze Grandma's house because it's in the way of a future strip mall that will add more to the tax base? The Ten Commandments can appear on public land but not in a courthouse, but Moses, who received the Ten Commandments can appear in the frieze of the House but he'll be sandblasted off the Supreme Court? Or do I have that the other way around?

She slams Bill Frist too for touting his "compassion" because those who are compassionate need not tout it with words but can testify to that trait with their deeds.

Good stuff. Read it all.

Kudos to the Lodi Muslim Mosque . . .

. . . for sacking its imam who is wanted on immigration charges as part of an FBI investigation into terrorist activities in the Lodi Muslim community AND who popped off against the US and in support of Osama bin Laden.

Nice to see some Muslim community in the US not blindly defending its imam's freedom of association when that association means connections to Pakistani terrorist groups.


Iraq and al-Qaeda = all part of a war on terrorism

I've noted time and again the contacts between Saddam's Iraq and terrorism. Indeed, Saddam used Oil-for-Food funding to give money to al-Qaeda, supported al-Qaeda in exchange for its pledge not to attack Iraq (see here too, quoting the indictment of al-Qaeda by the Clinton Justice Dept.), was involved in the first WTC attack in 1993, supported Palestinian suicide bombers, sought to blow up the Radio Free Europe offices in Prague and had members of the Iraqi "diplomatic corps" help arrange and sit in on the 9-11-01 attack planning meeting in Kuala Lumpur (see title link).

What part of any of this renders the war in Iraq separate from the overarching war against Islamofascist terrorism that the US also fought in Afghanistan?


Thus, as Andy McCarthy shows, Pres. Bush was right to link 9-11-01 and the Iraq conflict last night.

Not the Loyal Opposition

Brendan Miniter had a very good piece in the Opinion Journal yesterday on how some folks seem to actively be hoping that Iraq turns into another Vietnam.

At a press conference with the new Iraqi prime minister last week, a reporter noted slipping public opinion of the war and asked President Bush if his administration is now stuck in the mud. Mr. Bush responded with a joke, saying the reporter might even call it a "quagmire." The reference is to Vietnam, of course, and some in the press corps these days hardly seem able to hide their glee that Mr. Bush's war appears to be faltering.

Senators Kennedy, Kerry, Durbin and Reid, to name just a handful, seem to be doing their damndest to rant about real or imagined abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and against renewal of the Patriot Act. Winning the war against Islamic fundamentalism seems to be less important to them and their ilk than proving Bush wrong. It's as if they would be happy to trade Iraq to see Bush and the neo-conservatives humbled. Now as our liberal readers scowl in fury - think about it. How much do the Democrats and the Left hate Bush - who, after all, 'stole' the 2000 election, and led the US into an 'adventure' which they were sure would be another Vietnam (many of them thought that about Afghanistan too). Their hatred combined with a spectacularly deluded worldview have convinced many that a US failure might just be worth the price to teach those damned hawks a lesson. And it would avoid the possibility that 10, 20 years hence that Iraq becomes another Turkey and they are naming high schools after W.

I like to think that most of the Democrats are not consciously rooting for the US to fail but they certainly are not helping the cause at all by carping on imagined US transgressions and talk of a plan and a date to withdraw troops. Are they truly so stupid to fail to realize that showing weakness in this struggle invites more violence? The Islamofascists attacked us because they thought we were weak not because we were strong.

Miniter gets this right.

In the end, South Vietnam was abandoned and conquered, and it descended into poverty and oppression... [W]alking away from the overarching moral struggle proved disastrous across the world. After Congress shut off funding to the Republic of Vietnam, U.S. influence receded in the face of communist insurgency, and South Vietnam quickly fell in 1975. The emboldened Soviets were then free to press their interests in Africa, South America and, yes, the Middle East. The shah of Iran fell just a few years after Saigon. Radical Islamic terrorism got a big push from the Soviets.

This history is worth running through because some of those who led the effort to shut off funds to South Vietnam are in Congress today and are among the critics of the war in Iraq. It's not that Massachusetts's Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry learned nothing from the defeat in Vietnam. It seems that they learned all the wrong lessons and still have no problem with watching the U.S. lose an eminently winnable and moral war.

The history of the Vietnam War could repeat itself in Iraq if the Beltway class decides to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory...

Partly our success can be seen by what's not happening in Iraq today. There are no more mass graves being filled. Nor is there a cruel dictator sitting atop one of the world's largest armies and wondering how best to acquire the weapons of mass destruction that might throw back Western forces. We also don't have to worry about Saddam Hussein handing off such weapons to terrorists from his prison cell...

On the military side of the war, U.S. forces have lost fewer than 2,000 people in more than two years of fighting in Iraq--an outcome that would have been dismissed as utopian before the invasion. Meanwhile our forces are armoring up and developing tactics and weapons to defeat insurgents. Even as the enemy is still pulling off deadly attacks, insurgents are finding Iraqi recruits harder to come by. Many of the "insurgents" aren't Iraqi at all but are terrorists from foreign countries. This is a welcome development--jihadis who head for Baghdad aren't heading to Brooklyn...

It took eight years of determined effort for Ronald Reagan to reverse the course of history by backing freedom fighters across the globe, building up our military capabilities and finding other ways to put the screws to the Soviets. During those years he was also roundly criticized for confronting the ideologues of oppression and, in the process, risking alienating our European allies. But shortly after President Reagan left office the evil empire collapsed in a heap. We had our holiday from history in the 1970s and again, under President Clinton, in the 1990s, with disastrous results each time. Now we've got the wind at our back and a president willing to confront the ideologues of hate by backing those seeking their own freedom around the world. We don't have to lose this war. But we could, if the nation loses confidence in fighting it.

Private Property, RIP = part IV

Quin Hillyer's column blasting the Kelo decision is spot-on. Moreover, he attacks the majority's reasoning better than most who have criticized the decision. Excerpt:

Tyranny, as ever, creeps in on little cat feet. Listen more closely, and you'll hear the insistent whisperings of Big Brother, plotting to confiscate our most cherished liberties.

Way back in the Calder vs. Bull case in 1798, Justice Samuel Chase explained why this notion of seizing land for the private use of another is an affront to freedom: "A law that takes property from A. and gives it to B: It is against all reason and justice, for a people to entrust a Legislature with such powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it."

Or as James Madison, the author of the Fifth Amendment, wrote: "That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest."

Madison and Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were all devotees of the political theorist John Locke. All believed, as Locke did, that private property is the foundation of, indeed the very reason for the establishment of, any legitimate government.

Over and over, Locke explained that it was to secure property -- not capital or wealth, necessarily, but a homestead, land, the fruit of one's own labors -- that men entered into the social compact of a government in the first place. Without private property, government by its very nature becomes a tyranny.

"The supreme power cannot take from any man any part of his property without his own consent: for the preservation of property is the end of government," Locke wrote. "Hence it is a mistake to think, that the supreme or legislative power of any common-wealth, can do what it will, and dispose of the estates of the subject arbitrarily."

Gitmo is Club Med compared to this

James Warner was a POW for five years and five months in Vietnam in the 1960s and early '70s. He describes what happened to him in the column linked in the title of this post. Excerpts:

On the first of June, I was put in a cement box with a steel door, which sat out in the tropical summer sun. There, I was put in leg irons which were then wired to a small stool. In this position I could neither sit nor stand comfortably. Within 10 days, every muscle in my body was in pain (here began a shoulder injury which is now inoperable). The heat was almost beyond bearing. My feet had swollen, literally, to the size of footballs. I cannot describe the pain. When they took the leg irons off, they had to actually dig them out of the swollen flesh. It was five days before I could walk, because the weight of the leg irons on my Achilles tendons had paralyzed them and hamstrung me. I stayed in the box from June 1 until Nov. 10, 1969. While in the box, I lost at least 30 pounds. I would be curious to hear Mr. Durbin explain how this compares with having a female invade my private space, and whether a box in which the heat nearly killed me is the same as turning up the air conditioning.

* * *
[regarding his diet]Consider nutrition. I have severe peripheral neuropathy in both legs as a residual of beriberi. I am fortunate. Some of my comrades suffer partial blindness or ischemic heart disease as a result of beriberi, a degenerate disease of peripheral nerves caused by a lack of thiamin, vitamin B-1. It is easily treated but is extremely painful.

The Democrats complaining about Gitmo (this means you, Sen. Durbin) should be shamed by Mr. Warner's experience and sacrifice.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Another Brit traitor who got off scot-free -- dies at 93

In the immediate post-World War II years, the UK was riddled with communist spies inside its government and military contractors (many of which were government-run industries after the UK economy became socialized after the war). Among those spies was Britain's Ethel Rosenberg, Melita Norwood.

She died earlier this month. Here's a bit about MI5's failure in the 50s, when it was knee-deep in Soviet moles:

Her security clearance was revoked in 1951 because of concerns that she might be a spy.

But after she was publicly unmasked in 1999 [see here for the book that unmasked her -- TKM] she said idealism, not money, had inspired her.

After she was exposed as a spy, Britain's Security Service MI5 was strongly criticized by the parliamentary committee overseeing the intelligence agencies over the failure to prosecute her.

MI5 completely whiffed on the Kim Philby investigation, expecting it to nab the nice secretary at the Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association is really asking for alot at that point in time.

Souter's home --> ripe land for a hotel

This is funny, and the guy is an obvious crank (he's an Objectivist -- need we say more?), but it makes a real point:

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of [Supreme Court Associate Justice David] Souter's home.

Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."

Clements indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.

"This is not a prank" said Clements, "The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development."

In the Emperor's chambers

Steinbrenner called Darth Cashman, Darth Newman, Darth Connors, Darth Michael, et al. to his chambers in Tampa today for an emergency organizational meeting. The question is how bad Steinbrenner will fark things up: will he trade Philip Hughes, Eric Duncan, TJ Beam, Jeff Karstens, Abel Gomez and the other top Yanks prospects for more dross like Jeff Weaver, Aaron Boone, Denny Neagle and Kevin Brown? Will Big Stein listen to Stick Michael and Cashman and give some of the kids time to develop whilst just plugging some holes in the defense (CF) and relief?

Gammons thinks the latter is more likely. I hope so too. Steinbrenner is in mid-80s mode and we all know how many World Series the Yanks won in the 80s: ZERO.

My new favorite Swede

Forget Vendela, this guy is the coolest Swede going:

Swede Ulf Hjertstrom, who was held for several weeks with [Australian Douglas] Wood in Baghdad, was released by his kidnappers on May 30.

Mr Hjertstrom has since claimed he shared information with US and Iraqi troops about Mr Wood which led to the release of the 63-year-old Australian engineers two weeks ago, after 47 days in captivity.

Now, he wants to find those responsible.

Talk about a great Hollywood popcorn flik.

For the record, Vendela's way hotter.

HT: Spoonman

Monday, June 27, 2005

Supreme Court update = Establishment Clause confusion

More Establishment Clause squishiness from the Supremes:
A split Supreme Court struck down Ten Commandments displays in courthouses Monday, ruling that two exhibits in Kentucky cross the line between separation of church and state because they promote a religious message.

* * *
Justices left legal wiggle room, saying that some displays -- like their own courtroom frieze -- would be permissible if they're portrayed neutrally in order to honor the nation's legal history.
And no, I don't think reading the opinion will clarify anything.
The Establishment Clause jurisprudence has been a mess since the 1970s and the Court has never seriously endeavored to clean it up.

The split in this case: O'Connor plus the liberals (Souter, Breyer, Stevens, Ginsburg) majority; Kennedy and the conservatives (Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas) dissent.

UPDATE: Proof of the Court's schizophrenic Establishment Clause case law approach came in later this morning when the Court ruled in favor of allowing the Texas capitol to retain a Ten Commandments display on its grounds because the Court deemed the display as neutrally honoring Texas' legal history. Another 5-4 case but Breyer voted with Kennedy and the conservatives to form the majority.

Naturally, the Supreme Court's own Moses The Lawgiver frieze is OK (and it should be).

See also: Michelle Malkin, the Cap'n.

Tigger, RIP

The voice of Winnie the Pooh's ADHD friend Tigger, Paul Winchell died Friday at age 82. He was also a ventriloquist and sometime inventor.


Rejecting the Flag Amendment

The Monk has already registered disgust over the concept of a flag-burning amendment. Yesterday, Mark Steyn described why a Flag Desecration Amendment is a sign of weakness, not strength. Some excerpts:

I wouldn't presume to speak for those who died atop the World Trade Center. For one thing, citizens of more than 50 foreign countries, from Argentina to Zimbabwe, were killed on 9/11. Of the remainder, maybe some would be in favor of a flag-burning amendment; and maybe some would think that criminalizing disrespect for national symbols is unworthy of a free society. And maybe others would roll their eyes and say that, granted it's been clear since about October 2001 that the federal legislature has nothing useful to contribute to the war on terror, and its hacks and poseurs prefer to busy themselves with a lot of irrelevant grandstanding with a side order of fries, but they could at least quit dragging us into it.

* * *
. . . A flag-burning amendment is the American equivalent of the rest of the West's ever more coercive constraints on free expression. The problem is not that some people burn flags; the problem is that the world view of which flag-burning is a mere ritual is so entrenched at the highest levels of Western culture. Banning flag desecration flatters the desecrators and suggests that the flag of this great republic is a wee delicate bloom that has to be protected. It's not. It gets burned because it's strong.

Announcements from the Supremes?

Today is the last day of the Supreme Court term so there will be a couple of decisions and possibly an announcement on a potential Supreme Court retirement.

Stay tuned.

We'll update with commentary later today too.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Hear it through the Grapevine

The proprietor of Right Wing News, John Hawkins, has started a new website with links to conservative blog entries all over the web. Check it out.

Private Property, RIP = an illogical effect?

New York City will use the power of eminent domain to acquire New Jersey, courtesy the Supreme Court's Kelo decision that allows city governments to condemn land for public purposes . . .

. . . California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called dibs on Nevada.

Uh, this is satire (click link) . . . but not as far-fetched as it ought to be.

From the Barking Moonbats, courtesy the humor site, Watley Review.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Private Property, RIP -- part 3

Some of what the Supreme Court's horrendous Kelo decision has wrought:

After celebrating the Supreme Court's decision yesterday to effectively give local governments carte blanche to seize land for private development, some local officials began quickly moving to use their new unlimited authority. Officials in the beachfront town of Freeport, Texas, announced they would move forward with plans to commandeer property owned by two seafood companies in order to allow the construction of a 900-slip private marina. Freeport will even be loaning the developers $6 million to finance the project, and if it fails the town won't be getting its money back. What is certain is that the displacement of the two seafood companies will cost scores of jobs.

Who gets the shaft here? Lower income workers for the two seafood companies, the companies themselves for having to accede to the condemnation.

Who benefits? The rich buggers who would use a marina and the developers. This is a "public use"? Does Freeport win? At last check, a city tax base is built upon its residents' property taxes (especially in Texas where there is no local or state income tax). Once those seafood company jobs are gone, guess what the workers are going to do: move where the companies relocate.

Thankfully, at least one person in Texas (other than The Monk) wants to stop this type of fiasco:

The Supreme Court's decision, by a narrow majority with Justice Anthony Kennedy as swing vote, has prompted state Rep. Frank Corte, a Republican from San Antonio, to propose a state constitutional amendment limiting the power to condemn private land for use by other private entities. He says the amendment is now necessary in order to "limit a local governmental entity's power of eminent domain, preventing them from bulldozing residences in favor of private developers."

More to come on this issue . . .

The evil of the EuroLeft

For 70 years, they shilled for the USSR, especially under Stalin and Brezhnev. They sought to overthrow Western European democracies, and applauded when the internal commie parties successfully uprooted (with Stalin's help) Eastern European governments in the late 1940s. Now, they are supporting terrorists in Iraq against the US:

far-left groups in western Europe are carrying on a campaign dubbed Ten Euros for the Resistance, offering aid and comfort to the car bombers, kidnappers, and snipers trying to destabilize the fledgling Iraq government. In the words of one Italian website, Iraq Libero (Free Iraq), the funds are meant for those fighting the occupanti imperialisti. The groups are an odd collection, made up largely of Marxists and Maoists, sprinkled with an array of Arab emigres and aging, old-school fascists, according to Lorenzo Vidino, an analyst on European terrorism based at The Investigative Project in Washington, D.C. "It's the old anticapitalist, anti-U.S., anti-Israel crowd," says Vidino, who has been to their gatherings, where he saw activists from Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Italy. "The glue that binds them together is anti-Americanism." The groups are working on an October conference to further support "the Iraqi Resistance." A key goal is to expand backing for the insurgents from the fringe left to the broader antiwar and antiglobalization movements.

Showing why my forefathers were smart to leave the old country: the two main leftist amalgams helping the terrorists are based in Italy, which has had the strongest Communist party in Western Europe since the end of WWII (even stronger than France's).

Thankfully, there are questions about the effectiveness of these dopes:

But some funds may be buying more deadly stuff; one leader boasted to Vidino that the campaign will send "everything it takes" for the resistance to win, including weaponry. Neither Iraq Libero nor Campo Antiimperialista responded to questions from U.S. News about where their funds end up. The groups' impact, though, may ultimately be limited. "They have a pretty big following, but we're not talking about big money," says Vidino. At one conference, he notes, many militants looked so ragged he doubted they even had 10 euros in their pockets.

Italy should be more concerned about these terrorist sympathizers in their own country than about the alleged help the CIA gave in transporting a terrorist out of Italy and to jail in Egypt.

Private Property, RIP -- part 2

These comments from George Will are notable:

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5 to 4 ruling that drains the phrase "public use" of its clearly intended function of denying to government an untrammeled power to dispossess individuals of their most precious property: their homes and businesses.

During oral arguments in February, Justice Antonin Scalia distilled the essence of New London's brazen claim: "You can take from A and give to B if B pays more taxes?" Yesterday the court said that the modifier "public" in the phrase "public use" does not modify government power at all. That is the logic of the opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens and joined by justices Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

In a tart dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Justice Clarence Thomas and Scalia, noted that the consequences of this decision "will not be random." She says it is "likely" -- a considerable understatement -- that the beneficiaries of the decision will be people "with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

Those on the receiving end of the life-shattering power that the court has validated will almost always be individuals of modest means. So this liberal decision -- it augments government power to aggrandize itself by bulldozing individuals' interests -- favors muscular economic battalions at the expense of society's little platoons, such as homeowners and the neighborhoods they comprise.

This is a disaster.

The various states have a choice: follow the Supreme Court's ruling or follow the Michigan Supreme Court's Hathcock decision that ruled this type of eminent domain usage is contrary to the Michigan constitution. All state constitutions contain some limit on eminent domain, and the Federal Constitution sets a minimum for the level of protection of private property rights. That minimum is getting smaller by the day.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Tomorrow's Starting Pitcher

The Yanks slammed four homers and scored 13 runs in a ridiculous 8th inning last night to beat Tampa by a college baseball score, 20-11. Today, they lose for the 6th time in nine games against the worst team in the AL. Remember the time-worn and completely true baseball adage: momentum's only as good as tomorrow's starting pitcher.

Well, today's starter was the man who is becoming flop #2 for the Yanks this year, Carl Pavano. In 94 innings, Pavano has allowed 16 homers this season. In 222+ IP last year, he allowed . . . 16 homers. And the opponent's batting average has increased more than 55 points! Pavano has been victimized by the 'pen three times this year, but a 4.69 ERA speaks for itself in other games: he's stunk. And today Torre left him in to finish the 7th inning and go out to cheers with a 3-2 lead . . . instead, he coughed up a two-out three-run bomb that cost the Yanks the game.

It gets worse. Think about it, against the two worst teams they've played this year, KC and Tampa, the Yanks are 3-10. By all rights, if they played at the level of the rest of the league, they should be 8-5 or 9-4 -- Tampa's record is 19-44 when playing nottheYanks, KC's is 22-46. If and when the Yanks fail to make the playoffs, they can look back on terrible performances against these bottom-feeders as a key reason why they failed.


Note: I updated this after tonight's loss to correct the last full paragraph.

Voter fraud in Ohio

The DNC-commissioned investigation of possible vote fraud in Ohio in the 2004 Presidential election found irregularities, but had to concede there was neither a smoking gun, nor any credible evidence to conclude that if things had gone "smoothly" in Ohio, that Kerry would have won the state:

Democratic officials said they could not conclude that Mr. Bush's Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, would have won in Ohio even if voting had gone smoothly . . .

So much for the Ohio-fraud meme . . . but wait! There WAS vote fraud in Ohio. But the perpetrators were anti-Bush organizations:

In March, a group of Ohio election law attorneys conducted a review of the state's election for the House Committee on Administration. It found, among other things, that "thousands of false and fraudulent voter-registration cards had been discovered and became the subject of numerous investigations by boards of elections, actions by local law enforcement and many media reports."

"Overwhelmingly," this report said, "these problems were reportedly traced primarily" to four Democratic political allies who supported Mr. Kerry: ACORN, America Coming Together, the AFL-CIO and the NAACP National Voter Fund.

The Captain wonders why that info wasn't in the NYT or WaPo reports. So do I.

As the season slips away . . .

What will the Yanks do next? As I write, they will have to come from behind to get a split at home with Tampa, a team that's won 4 road games outside of NYC this year, and have had 0 quality starts against the AL East's worst team.

It gets no better. Over the next six weeks or so, the Yanks play the following teams: the Mess (who always play 10 games better than they are against the Yanks), O's, Tigers, O's, Indians, [All-Star break], Blosax-Rangers-Angels on road, Twins, Angels, Indians. That's a series against the Mess and 10-straight series against teams who currently do not suck. With Pavano clueless, Johnson sliderless, Wang rookie-ish and the 'pen iffy, the Yanks may well be 10 out by early August.


Private Property, RIP

Justice Kennedy has completed his conversion: he is now Reagan's equivalent of David Souter. Kennedy was the swing vote in a key Fifth Amendment property rights case that the Supreme Court has completely botched (Stevens, Souter, Breyer, Ginsburg for; O'Connor, Scalia, Thomas, Rehnquist against). Here is the essence of the decision, from the AP article linked in the title of this post:
The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses _ even against their will _ for private economic development.

* * *
The 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

I'll include more analysis and commentary later (either tonight or over the weekend). For now, this will suffice: there is no real meaning to the term "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation" because all uses are potentially "public".

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Symbolism over substance

From the why bother file: the House of Representatives passed a bill today that it has proposed as an amendment to the Constitution: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

This is a ridiculous case of symbolism over substance and Jerrold Nadler is right when he says: "If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents."

This veneration of the flag such that Congress would allow itself to prohibit expressive conduct regarding one THING is a terrible departure from the traditional interpretation of the First Amendment -- an interpretation that protects expressive conduct, such as burning a flag as a symbol of distaste for the US and its policies. The Constitution has been amended just 17 times since its enactment with the Bill of Rights (the first ten Amendments) attached in 1791. Enshrining in the Constitution an exception to the First Amendment to allow Congress to prevent flag-burning (or flag-desecration), which would be based solely on the expression of ideas antithetical to the members of Congress, is anathema to the purpose of both the First Amendment and the freedoms in the Constitution that the flag symbolizes.

The late Justice Brennan made this point quite succinctly 16 years ago when the Court upheld a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruling that threw out the conviction of Gregory Lee Johnson for flag desecration [Texas v. Johnson, 491 US 397]:

Our decision is a reaffirmation of the principles of freedom and inclusiveness that the flag best reflects, and of the conviction that our toleration of criticism such as Johnson's is a sign and source of our strength. Indeed, one of the proudest images of our flag, the one immortalized in our own national anthem, is of the bombardment it survived at Fort McHenry. It is the Nation's resilience, not its rigidity, that Texas sees reflected in the flag - and it is that resilience that we reassert today.

The way to preserve the flag's special role is not to punish those who feel differently about these matters. It is to persuade them that they are wrong. "To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence." Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 377 (1927) (Brandeis, J., concurring). And, precisely because it is our flag that is involved, one's response to the flag burner may exploit the uniquely persuasive power of the flag itself. We can imagine no more appropriate response to burning a flag than waving one's own, no better way to counter a flag burner's message than by saluting the flag that burns, no surer means of preserving the dignity even of the flag that burned than by - as one witness here did - according its remains a respectful burial. We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.

Brennan was right. I'm hoping this foolishness doesn't get past the Senate. If it does, hopefully 13 states will resist passing this Amendment.

Just don't miss

From the Beeb:

Israel has confirmed it tried to assassinate a militant from the Islamic Jihad group in a targeted air strike.

The attack happened soon after leaders of both sides sat down for talks in Jerusalem on Tuesday, later described as disappointing by the Palestinians.

Targeted killings of Palestinian militants [that's TERRORISTS dammit -- TKM] by Israel had been on hold since a truce was agreed in February.

The only problem I have with this: the IDF missed.

Interesting speculation

Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard passes along what he calls "well-informed speculation" that Justice O'Connor will announce her resignation at the end of the Supreme Court term next week and that Chief Justice Rehnquist will remain on the Court for at least another year (health permitting). In her place, in order to avoid Democratic filibustering, the President would nominate current Attorney General and former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales -- Bush wants to appoint the first Latino Supreme Court justice and Gonzales is considered a moderate.

Assuming Kristol is on or near the mark here are the problems: (1) as Edward Whelan has noted here and in an earlier post (click the internal link), Gonzales has been at the forefront of the Bush Administration's legal strategy on the war on terror. That legal strategy will be challenged for as long as Ramsey Clark gets money from useful idiots like George Soros (and that will continue long into the foreseeable future), thereby requiring Gonzales to repeatedly recuse himself. Whelan has counseled against a Gonzales appointment for that reason. (2) Gonzales is entirely too moderate for the right wing of the Republican ranks and that will cause a large hue and cry if Bush abandons their concerns. And the evangelical Right has some strong pull. (3) Bush would be seen as kowtowing to the Democrats' filibuster strategy, a legacy he does not want. That would also play against type because Bush has shown time and again he is willing to push through his legislative demands even in the face of the Dems' filibuster threats. (4) Gonzales' moderate reputation is completely offset in much of the Left's outlook precisely because he has been so involved in the US terrorism fight. For that reason, Gonzales will not get an easy confirmation ride.

Bush is known for throwing a curveball every now and again, and the Republicans in the Senate are likely to shatter a filibuster if the Democrats try one against a Supreme Court appointment. For that reason, I'd give better odds to an appointment of Miguel Estrada or Emilio Garza as the first Latino justice for the US Supreme Court.


Memo to Frist: Get Bolton approved or step aside

Why is "Republican Senate Leadership" an oxymoron? Frist stages a cloture vote on the Bolton when Republican Senators are going to be absent (cloture failed) and the Republicans still can't get together enough to get the nomination through. Then the White House essentially has to tell Frist to cut the cloture nonsense and no present another vote until and unless it will be for real: a vote for or against confirmation.

This is pathetic. There is no basis other than politics for Bolton to be rejected and he is an Executive branch appointee: therefore the filibuster is unconstitutional. The Senate has two options, confirm or reject, and by majority vote only. If Frist cannot deliver the vote, he needs to step down as Republican Leader.

And he should take that same action if he cannot coral the Republican morons in the Senate who are ready to vote for greenhouse gas emission limits in the energy bill (a Kyoto-lite from the same body that rejected the Kyoto treaty in a Senate resolution by 95-0 in 1997). The man-made global warming argument is a crock: not one of the vaunted computer models that the environmentalists rely upon can recreate actual conditions when given known inputs (e.g., 1970 inputs, recreate the situation in 1990), therefore they are inherently unreliable. This is no way to make policy.

UPDATED: OK, I honked on this post a bit. Frist decided to NOT hold another vote before the White House called him in and said get Bolton confirmed. So I misread something from prior reports. The analysis in paragraph 2 (see above) still applies: the GOP Senate is pathetic.

Formula 1 brouhaha

I don't watch auto racing. I know Formula 1 has the funny looking cars and NASCAR has cars that look a bit like the General Lee.

There seems to be some great consternation that seven teams declined to race after Michelin advised them not to compete due to concerns about tire safety -- brought about it seems by the failure of two Michelin tires during practices. The Formula One governing body also apparently refused to allow teams to change tires.

F1 management is now furious and threatening action against the teams who didn't race.

Not for nothing but a tire blowout at 200+ mph can ruin your whole day. So what's the fuss all about. Is driver safety more important or getting a race in?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Condi uses some soft power

More reason to like Secretary of State Rice, from the Opinion Journal piece linked in the title:

Ever since President Bush settled on a policy of promoting democracy in the Middle East, he has been repeatedly lambasted for his alleged hypocrisy: Why advocate democracy for Iraq and Lebanon, say the critics, but not for autocratic U.S. allies such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia? In this telling, "democracy" is said to be just an alibi for the pursuit of narrow U.S. interests, especially a steady supply of oil.

Well, so much for that view. On Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to Cairo and then Riyadh and, in soft tones, delivered a stark message: America would no longer pursue "stability at the expense of democracy." The U.S. will now notice when peaceful Egyptian protestors are brutalized by government security goons, or when Saudi citizens are imprisoned for "peacefully petitioning the government"; and the future of both countries as American allies rests on the seriousness of their commitment to democratic reform.

"It is time to abandon the excuses that are made to avoid the hard work of democracy," said Ms. Rice. "There are those who say that democracy is being imposed. In fact, the opposite is true: Democracy is never imposed. It is tyranny that must be imposed."

Great stuff in the most autocratic area of the world.

Read it all.

Politics at Breakfast

I was having breakfast today at my customary hotel in Zurich where I happened to sit by a fellow who was reading the International Herald Tribune. We exchanged plesantries and he asked where I was from. I told him New York and he said "Oh I thought you were from the West Coast." [Meant as a compliment so I took no umbrage.] He asked after New York and I remarked that it was much improved in the last 10-15 years thanks in large part to Mayor Giuliani and the quality of life improvements that he initiated. He agreed and made a good analogy in that if you live in a filthy place you are much less inclined to try to be neat and clean. He remarked then that he'd like to visit New York but not for a while. "I don't like the people running things there. [the U.S.]"

I couldn't quite tell his nationality from his accent but his English was quite decent. It seemed Germanic but unusual so perhaps the French speaking region of Switzerland. He was a businessman and said he had traveled widely in the Middle East, particularly Lebanon. He opined how the Americans had completely lost the soft power that we once wielded with great effect due to the Iraq war. I replied that the vaunted 'soft' power may work well in Western Europe but certainly doesn't work in other parts of the world, especially, well, say in Lebanon. [There's really no riposte for that but other examples are Iran and North Korea!]

The dislike of America is now so strong, he further commented, that people are avoiding American culture - like the wearing of blue jeans. He admitted he himself is doing a bit of that.

He also made an outrageous statement that the only true democracy in the Middle East was Iran. [Israel?!? But more on that later.] That is prima facie preposterous and I told him as much given the fact that the mullahs banned hundreds of candidates from running in elections.

He was also concerned that Iraq is 'burning' and could 'burn' for 20 years. My comment to that was it's burning because its in the interest of none of the current regimes in the Middle East for Iraq to succeed.

Then he closed with this eye-opener:

"You know what the U.S could do to solve their problems? Stop supporting Israel."

Perhaps in reaction to my eyebrows arching off the top of my head, he quickly added, "Well not Israel, but the fascists."

To which my response was:
"If that's the 'price' for peace, we will not pay it."

This was a casual conversation with just one fellow who seemed to be reasonably traveled and informed (Ok, IHT is just NYT-lite) but I think it sheds some light on what a lot of Old Europe is thinking. They buy foolishly into the 'soft power' fallacy which works well exactly where you don't need it. This fellow also admitting to liking Clinton who, well, played nicely with Europe and displayed foibles like screwing his intern but did precious little about terrorism and proactively enhancing our geopolitical position. He feels that the U.S. has squandered its goodwill. I am not sure there was that much goodwill in the first place that wasn't driven by the Red Menace and if the price of their goodwill is the sublimation of our national interest, frankly they can keep it.

The worst fallacy of all was the proposition that if only we would stop supporting Israel that it would solve the bulk of our problems. I think that is emblematic of the deep anti-Semitism that afflicts many in Europe who choose to indulge in this fantasy. The militants hate us because we represent a liberal, secular democracy that is the living antithesis of the sharia run global caliphate that they dream of establishing.

Actual good movies

The Monkette2B and I usually see whatever looks like it won't suck, and we saw Episode III the night it came out. Nonetheless, there has been really thin gruel this year other than Crash, so I was pleased when Batman Begins received good reviews. And the Monkette2B wanted to see Mr. and Mrs. Smith (although she was getting sick of me imitating Angelina Jolie's query after taking a few shots at her hubby I saw on the commercials: "Still alive, baby?").

So we hit both, Batman Begins Friday and the Smithfest Saturday.

Batman Begins: Here were the two main problems with the Batman franchise in the other four films: (1) the directors; (2) the Batmans. Pretty deadly combination. And be honest, it's true. Fans of the Batman comics despised the choice of Michael Keaton to play Batman, and I thought he actually did a better job as Batman than as a rather doddering Bruce Wayne. But he was upstaged by the villains (especially JACK) and Keaton's weak chin always detracted from the stalwart defender of justice Batman is supposed to be. Tim Burton did a decent job in Batman, but he mailed it in on the sets and atmosphere in Batman Returns and all that BS about hiding behind masks was just a useless directorial essay inspired by a 17-year old (at that point) Billy Joel song, The Stranger. Who cared?

As for Val Kilmer -- a nondescript Batman and Bruce Wayne hampered by a cruddy director (Joel Schumacher), a poor script, an overemphasis on the man-boobs in the batsuit and a just-picking-up-my-paycheck performance by Tommy Lee Jones. So bad, I didn't even see Batman & Robin, with the over-smug George Clooney and what were reportedly the two worst performances by villains in any action movie not involving Timothy Dalton.

So the bar is not high for Batman Begins to beat any of the prior four. It does, but it does more than that. Indeed, if Batman Begins had been the first of the five Batman movies, its reputation as one of the most mismanaged comic-hero legacies would never have been made. And here's why:

First, the Batman. Christian Bale is a creepy bugger primarily because of his starring turn in American Psycho. But as a brooding, damaged and haunted Bruce Wayne, he conveys the essential roots of the Dark Knight as an avenger who will do justice better than any other on-screen Batman. Indeed, the only one who approximates Bale's heavy soul is Kevin Conroy -- the voice actor who was Batman in Batman: The Animated Series. A milquetoast Kilmer and clueless-playboy Keaton did not come anywhere near to conveying Bruce Wayne's pain or dark side; Bale hits those notes and does it well.

Second, the direction and story. Christopher Nolan essentially destroys the previous Batman movies in order to recreate the legend here. Batman begins as a rich American in a Southeast Asian wilderness who has lost his sense of himself, only vaguely knows his ultimate goal and needs a lifeline from the mysterious Ducard to help him find his way. Nolan shows the decline of Gotham as it parallelled the decline of the Wayne family, the death of Bruce Wayne's parents, the child's stifling guilt and loss of his moorings, his Asian martial arts training (shown also in the animated series) and his initial fight against the corruption of Gotham. Through all this, Nolan is capable of showing the building of the basic foundation of the legend: the Batcave, the Batmobile, the Batsuit, the utility belt, and the answer to Joker's question in the 1989 Batman: "where does he get those wonderful toys?"

Some critics complain that this is a slower, duller Batman. Not so: there's plenty of action throughout, but this really isn't a classic action movie, it's an action movie and a drama rolled into one.

Third, the villains: not merely oddly twisted by fluke physical transformations, these villains are power hungry, clever and coldly evil.

There are weaknesses: Katie Holmes is 26 but seems 21; so she's miscast as a hard-charging anti-corruption assistant DA. The motivations of the Scarecrow (one of the villains) is unexplored (although that may be fodder for another film) and there are other minor concerns.

Ultimately, however, Batman Begins is the only Batman movie that is a flat-out good movie. It deserves the sequel it will probably spawn.

UPDATE: There will be a sequel, which I sort of knew but forgot, and the main villain will be the Joker. Potential Jokers include Mark Hamill (yes, Luke Skywalker himself), who voiced the character on Batman: The Animated Series. Katie Holmes is out, which is no loss.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a popcorn movie with eye candy galore: Brad Pitt is what he is, and the women definitely get something they want to look at; and to balance that pretty boy out for me I have five words = Angelina Jolie is smokin' hot. You know the premise, they're assassins for rival clients and eventually try killing each other. The narrative trick: the Smiths are in couples counseling when the movie opens because they're bored in their marriage and not having marital relations (abstaining from Angelina Jolie? Straining credulity). The movie cuts to about two other "sessions" with the off-camera shrink (top-notch character actor William Fichtner in an uncredited role) before the final on-screen session.

Yeah, there are plot holes you can drive a truck through and this is no intellectual exercise. But it has humor (especially Pitt and his business partner Vince Vaughn), some nice subtleties (the computer-geek, uber-technical, hyper-planning Jane Smith v. her just wingin' it, seat-of-the-pants, yet ultra-clever hubby; the kill from afar weapons preferences of Mrs. Smith, v. the in-the-trenches style of Mr. Smith, etc.), and some funny stuff as the two stars each get reintroduced to his/her spouse after 5 or 6 years of marriage. As an is-what-it-is movie, the Smithathon is dang good.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Transnational law? A nightmare notion

Do you think that I am just mocking a straw man when I discuss the Supreme Court watching press and how it feels that a conservative justice leaning toward the leftist international position means the justice is "growing" in office?

Not so, as Tony Mauro proves:

Kennedy's progression

I remember covering a meeting of the American Bar Association in London in 2000 where Kennedy was asked by a British barrister during a panel discussion why the Supreme Court so rarely cites foreign court rulings, when those courts so often cite ours. Foreign rulings were too remote and unknown to American judges to cite reliably, Kennedy replied — an answer that nearly got him hooted off the stage.

Kennedy has come a long way since then, and other justices have too. They all have come to realize that the American legal system is no longer viewed as the only beacon of justice in the world. They do have something to learn from the courts and laws of other nations.

Sickening. The notion that the US has anything to learn from any country other than the UK's common law is ludicrous on its face. Zimbabwe criminal procedure, Iranian health care law, transnational conventions that US has deliberately refused to sign, Canadian civil rights law, and even UK criminal procedural statutes have no application here, and should be disregarded by the Supreme Court.

Other nations look to the US Supreme Court for two simple reasons: the quality of the legal thinking and the US Constitutional guarantees that it interprets. No country or multinational construct has that combination, nor can it approximate the US record. And most importantly: NO OUTSIDE LEGAL SYSTEM HAS ANY RELEVANCE TO QUESTIONS ARISING UNDER THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION.

And Mauro's fawning over Kennedy's "progression" is rooted in this asinine concept:

If globalization has flattened the world in terms of the economy and culture, isn't it time that our legal system also look beyond our borders? Are we so arrogant that we think we have nothing to learn from judges and lawmakers around the world who have faced the same issues we face?

Answer: yes, because we have faced those concepts before, our judges are generally the best in the world (federal level) and our Constitution is the document that provides the highest protection for individual freedom of any law in the world. Cassandra at Villainous Company may blame Thomas Friedman's Flat World concept for Mauro's inanity, but it has existed for years.

As one commenter at that blog noted:

The conservative justice isn't going to cite the foreign law at all, though Scalia will rightly make fun of the liberal for ignoring the overwhelming number of foreign states that have laws opposing the liberal viewpoint. The liberal isn't going to cite the many laws of foreign countries that outlaw abortion or don't have environmental legislation. It isn't relavant then, for some reason.

No, this is outcome determinative reasoning by the leftist judge.

Correct. And that's why Mauro's reasoning is so repulsive.


Cedar victory!

This is great news: the anti-Syria faction, led by Saad Hariri, son of assassinated anti-Syrian Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri, won BIG in parliamentary elections in Northern Lebanon.

An anti-Syrian alliance that tried to bridge religious lines and was led by Mr. Hariri's son, 35-year-old Saad Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, won at least 21 of 28 contested seats in northern Lebanon, the last polling area in the elections that have been staggered over the past four weekends. That gave the alliance a majority in the next 128-seat Parliament.

And even better: Hariri will try to thwart re-election of the current Parliament Speaker, the pro-Syrian Nabih Berri. Berri is allied with the men who killed Hariri's father and with the terrorists in Hizb'Allah.

More good news, it seems for our favorite Cedarite:

HT: The Cap'n

Clutch city

The Monk doesn't watch much NBA hoops in general until it's playoff time -- much of it is dull, same offensive sets, and until the zone was reintroduced a couple of years ago teams ran two plays: pick-and-roll/pop and the swing-around-the-perimeter attempt to find an open man. Yawn.

Playoffs are always different because of how much is on the line. But the 2005 NBA Finals were four-straight stinkbomb games until yesterday. And after watching the fourth quarter and OT yesterday, I have one reaction: can you think of a better clutch player who is not a Hall-of-Famer than Robert Horry? He comes up with big shots, tough rebounds and even as primarily a stand-still shooter this year, he had the resounding drive-and-dunk that brought the Spurs within striking distance before, once again, he struck with the game-winning three-point bomb. Nice.

The tragedy of Amnesty's idiocy

Pavel Litvinov was a prisoner of conscience exiled in Siberia by the USSR. Since gaining his freedom, he has been active in human rights issues. In the column linked above, he rebukes Amnesty International for allowing itself to be hijacked by politics without remaining true to its mission to bring to light the factual mistreatment of prisoners by abusive regimes.

Steyn: Durbin aids our enemies

Personally, I think the mindset of some conservatives and libertarians (see here for one example) who are too weary or dismissive of what they believe is the irrelevance of a given left-wing moron to get worked up about his slanders is dead wrong. Especially when the moron in question is the second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate.

Instead, The Monk and Wongdoer, as should be obvious from our posts, are much more in tune with Mark Steyn on this issue. And Steyn shreds the latest Demo-dope, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) today in the Chicago Sun-Times. Extensive excerpts:

. . . in what follows I am not questioning Dick Durbin's patriotism, at least not for the first couple of paragraphs. Instead, I'll begin by questioning his sanity.

* * *
Last Tuesday, Senator Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, quoted a report of U.S. "atrocities" at Guantanamo . . .

. . . The "atrocities" he enumerated -- "Not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room" -- are not characteristic of the Nazis, the Soviets or Pol Pot, and, at the end, the body count in Gitmo was a lot lower. That's to say, it was zero, which would have been counted a poor day's work in Auschwitz or Siberia or the killing fields of Cambodia.

But give Durbin credit. Every third-rate hack on every European newspaper can do the Americans-are-Nazis schtick. Amnesty International has already declared Guantanamo the "gulag of our times." But I do believe the senator is the first to compare the U.S. armed forces with the blood-drenched thugs of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. Way to go, senator! If you had a dime for every crackpot Web site that takes up your thoughtful historical comparison, you'd be able to retire to the Caribbean and spend the rest of your days torturing yourself with hot weather and loud music, as well as inappropriately provocative women and insufficient choice of hors d'oeuvres and all the other shameful atrocities committed at Guantanamo.

Just for the record, some 15 million to 30 million Soviets died in the gulag; some 6 million Jews died in the Nazi camps; some 2 million Cambodians -- one third of the population -- died in the killing fields. Nobody's died in Gitmo, not even from having Christina Aguilera played to them excessively loudly. The comparison is deranged, and deeply insulting not just to the U.S. military but to the millions of relatives of those dead Russians, Jews and Cambodians, who, unlike Durbin, know what real atrocities are. Had Durbin said, "Why, these atrocities are so terrible you would almost believe it was an account of the activities of my distinguished colleague Robert C. Byrd's fellow Klansmen," that would have been a little closer to the ballpark but still way out.

One measure of a civilized society is that words mean something: "Soviet" and "Nazi" and "Pol Pot" cannot equate to Guantanamo unless you've become utterly unmoored from reality. Spot the odd one out: 1) mass starvation; 2) gas chambers; 3) mountains of skulls; 4) lousy infidel pop music turned up to full volume. One of these is not the same as the others, and Durbin doesn't have the excuse that he's some airhead celeb or an Ivy League professor. He's the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Don't they have an insanity clause?

* * *
[After Pat Leahy comment that before Gitmo, America was seen as a beacon of human rights]

So, until Guantanamo, America was "viewed as a leader in human rights"? Not in 2004, when Abu Ghraib was the atrocity du jour. Not in 2003, when every humanitarian organization on the planet was predicting the deaths of millions of Iraqis from cholera, dysentery and other diseases caused by America's "war for oil." Not in 2002, when the "human rights" lobby filled the streets of Vancouver and London and Rome and Sydney to protest the Bushitler's plans to end the benign reign of good King Saddam. Not the weekend before 9/11 when the human rights grandees of the U.N. "anti-racism" conference met in South Africa to demand America pay reparations for the Rwandan genocide and to cheer Robert Mugabe to the rafters for calling on Britain and America to "apologize unreservedly for their crimes against humanity." If you close Gitmo tomorrow, the world's anti-Americans will look around and within 48 hours alight on something else for Gulag of the Week.

* * *
The senator from Illinois' comparisons are as tired as they're grotesque. They add nothing useful to the debate. But around the planet, folks naturally figure that, if only 100 people out of nearly 300 million get to be senators, the position must be a big deal. Hence, headlines in the Arab world like "U.S. Senator Stands By Nazi Remark." That's al-Jazeera, where the senator from al-Inois is now a big hero -- for slandering his own country, for confirming the lurid propaganda of his country's enemies. Yes, folks, American soldiers are Nazis and American prison camps are gulags: don't take our word for it, Senator Bigshot says so.

This isn't a Republican vs Democrat thing; it's about senior Democrats who are so over-invested in their hatred of a passing administration that they've signed on to the nuttiest slurs of the lunatic fringe. It would be heartening to think that Durbin will himself now be subjected to some serious torture. Not real torture, of course; I don't mean using Pol Pot techniques and playing the Celine Dion Christmas album really loud to him. But he should at least be made a little uncomfortable over what he's done -- in a time of war, make an inflammatory libel against his country's military that has no value whatsoever except to America's enemies. Shame on him, and shame on those fellow senators and Democrats who by their refusal to condemn him endorse his slander.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Pacepa: Commies, UN and anti-Semites, O My

Ceaucescu's former spy chief walking into a US Embassy in Vienna was one of the greatest defections of the Cold War. Debriefed, and then put into hiding until the end of the Cold War, Ion Mihai Pacepa is a link between the disinformation campaigns and intelligence operations of the Soviet client states and the roots of current anti-Israel and anti-US posturing by the elites in Europe. Pacepa knows where alot of bodies are buried, primarily because he helped dig the gravesites. Here are excerpts from his analysis of why the UN needs John Bolton:

I spent two decades of my other life as a Communist spy chief, struggling to transform the U.N. into a kind of international socialist republic. The Communist bloc threw millions of dollars and thousands of people into that gigantic project. According to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, all employees from Eastern Bloc nations were involved in espionage. The task of this espionage army was not to steal secrets but to use the U.N. to convert the historical Arab and Islamic hatred of the Jews into a new hatred for Israel’s main supporter, the United States. The U.N. became our petri dish, in which we nurtured a virulent strain of hatred for America, grown from the bacteria of Communism, anti-Semitism, nationalism, jingoism, and victimology.

* * *
It is significant that today’s horrific terrorism has reenergized the Soviet bloc’s former agitators around the world. Antonio Negri, a professor at the University of Padua who considered the brains of the Italian Red Brigades (a terrorist group financed by the Communists) and who served time in jail for his involvement in kidnapping Prime Minister Aldo Moro, is just one example. Negri coauthored a virulently anti-American book entitled Empire, in which he justifies Islamist terrorism as being a spearhead of “postmodern revolution” against American globalization, the new “empire” he claims is breaking up nation states and creating huge unemployment. The New York Times called this modern-day Communist Manifesto “the hot, smart book of the moment.”

This is a familiar theme. For 27 years of my other life I was involved in creating various Antonio Negris throughout Western Europe and using them to spread the seductive theory of economic determinism that still defines the mindset of Europe’s Left. I helped write the lyrics to the siren song according to which America, symbolizing the world’s rich, is to blame for all the evils of the world. I was steeped in its rhetoric. To me today, these Cold War agitators revived by Kofi Annan’s U.N. are even more disturbing than the terrorists’ Kalashnikovs now aimed at us.

Nowadays it is considered bad manners to point a finger at Communist sources of anti-Americanism, but the truth is that the Soviet bloc’s old U.N. bag of dirty tricks continues to bear fruit. In 2003, the U.N. expelled the U.S. from the Commission on Human Rights by the overwhelming vote of 33 to 3. By that time the United Nations General Assembly had already passed 408 resolutions condemning Israel, the only U.N. member prohibited from holding a seat on the Security Council. The cumulative number of votes cast against Israel since 1967? 55,642.

* * *
John Bolton not only acts forcefully, he also gets results. He singlehandedly brought about the repeal of U.N. Resolution 3379 of 1975, which stigmatized Zionism as “a form of racism and racial discrimination.” That resolution was the Soviet bloc’s first major “victory” at the U.N. Soon after it was adopted, the Communists unleashed a vitriolic disinformation campaign portraying the U.S. as a rapacious Zionist country run by a greedy “Council of the Elders of Zion” (a derisive epithet for the U.S. Congress) that was plotting to transform the rest of the world into a Jewish fiefdom.

U.N. Resolution 3379 lasted 16 years — until Bolton came along. In December 1991, this unknown undersecretary of State had the guts to tell the General Assembly of the U.N. that it had been manipulated by the Communists, and to ask its members to wake up. Bolton was so well-armed with documentation, so bold, and so straightforward that he forced the U.N. to repeal its own resolution by the great margin of 111 to 25. Even my native Romania, until then the epitome of Communism, voted with Bolton.

* * *
Nazism, the Holocaust, and Communism were not defeated by international organizations or by blue-ribbon commissions. They were defeated by the military actions of the United States, which is now working on crushing the evil of terrorism. The U.S., not the U.N., initiated freedom’s current domino effect in the Middle East, a movement that now is even reaching into Ukraine, Georgia, and other former Soviet republics, while the U.N. is busy encouraging the growing anti-American barrage.

The U.S. is the only force on earth that has the moral authority, the experience, and the capability to reform the U.N. It is high time for Washington to take the initiative again, as it did when World War II ended.

Progress by the Yanks?

So check it out: the Yanks came into this series against the Cubs with a 2-9 record in 3+ game series against teams at .500 or better. After this weekend series, which they've already won, the Yanks will be . . . 2-9 in 3+ game series against teams at or above .500. Say what?

Well the Mess will be under .500 come Monday morning, and they were the second .500+ team the Yanks had won a series from this year . . . until they slipped under .500. Then again, if the Tigers beat the Pads tomorrow, the Yanks will be 3-9 against .500+ teams in 3-game series this year.

Yeah, it's complicated. So is explaining why the Yanks stink.

Today, they got everything from their starter they didn't get yesterday: Wang went eight innings, gave up only 5 hits and only the second HR against him in > 56 innings this season -- a ratio better than even Rivera! Compare with Pavano, who honked a 4-run lead and gave up 9 hits in his last 2.1 IP yesterday before Joe yanked him. Yuk.

And kudos to Jeter, who hit his first grand slam of his career. Funny enough, the Monkette2B and I exited the car and went to the movie theater just as Cubs manager Dusty Baker made the pitching change to install Joe Borowski (now a trivia answer when Jeter goes into the Hall). I checked the score on my Blackberry (free plug!) whilst watching previews and saw the 7-1 score (at the time) and HR - Jeter (7) in the line. Me and missing history. Then again, that pales next to Dad and Mom dragging me to the movies on the same Fridays as Ron Guidry's 18-K win over the Angels (1978) and the USA's upset of the USSR in hockey (1980).

Friday, June 17, 2005

Listen to the Jihadist

Victor Davis Hanson teaches us to learn from our enemies in his customary Friday piece. Hanson refers to one Abu Ibrahim, a Syrian smuggler of jihadists to Iraq, whose interview was printed in the International Herald Tribune. Hanson distills some of Ibrahim's comments:

1. that September 11 was "a great day"
2. that two weeks after the attack, a celebration was held in his rural Syrian community celebrating the mass murder, and thereafter continued twice-weekly
3. that Syrian officials attended such festivities, funded by Saudi money with public slogans that read, "The People ...Will Now Defeat the Jews and Kill Them All"
4. that the Syrian government does not hesitate to work with Islamists ("beards and epaulets were in one trench together")
5. that collateral damage was not always so collateral: "Once the Americans bombed a bus crossing to Syria. We made a big fuss and said it was full of merchants," Abu Ibrahim said. "But actually, they were fighters."
6. That once Syria felt U.S. pressure, there was some temporary cosmetic change of heart: "The security agents said the smuggling of fighters had to stop. The jihadists' passports were taken. Some were jailed for a few days. Abu Ibrahim's jailers shaved his beard."
7. at supporters in Saudi Arabia always played a key role: "Our brothers in Iraq are asking for Saudis. The Saudis go with enough money to support themselves and their Iraqi brothers. A week ago, we sent a Saudi to the jihad. He went with 100,000 Saudi riyals. There was celebration amongst his brothers there!"

The lessons here:

[Nearly] every one of our Western myths promulgated by the antiwar Left is shattered by a candid jihadist himself. First, there was always radical Islamic anti-American hatred that preceded Iraq. Indeed, celebrations were spontaneous immediately after September 11 on the mere news of slaughtered Americans.

We have been told that jihadists and secular Baathists have little in common, and that only our war brought them together. But like the Japanese and Nazis in World War II, autocrat and jihadist have shared interests in hating liberal democracies — and well before our response they were jointly fanning efforts against the United States.

Note too the passive-aggressive nature of Syria that gives into rather than resists American pressures. When the U.S. threatens, it backsteps; when we relent, it goes back on the offensive.


...Our own fundamentalist Left is in lockstep with Wahhabist reductionism — in its similar instinctive distrust of Western culture. Both blame the United States and excuse culpability on the part of Islamists. The more left-wing the Westerner, the more tolerant he is of right-wing Islamic extremism; the more liberal the Arab, the more likely he is to agree with conservative Westerners about the real source of Middle Eastern pathology.

The constant? A global distrust of Western-style liberalism and preference for deductive absolutism. So burn down a mosque in Zimbabwe, murder innocent Palestinians in Bethlehem in 2002, arrest Christians in Saudi Arabia, or slaughter Africans in Dafur, and both the Western Left and the Middle East's hard Right won't say a word. No such violence resonates with America's diverse critics as much as a false story of a flushed Koran — precisely because the gripe is not about the lives of real people, but the psychological hurts, angst, and warped ideology of those who in their various ways don't like the United States.

and the most important lesson:

A war that cannot be won entirely on the battlefield most certainly can be lost entirely off it — especially when an ailing Western liberal society is harder on its own democratic culture than it is on fascist Islamic fundamentalism.

Big weekend for the Yanks?

This is the type of thing that excites Cubs fans and baseball geeks more than Yankees fans: for the first time since 1938, the Cubs will play at Yankee Stadium. The last time, the Yanks finished off a four-game sweep of the Cubbies by winning games 3 and for of the WS at home.

Yankees fans don't care that the Cubs are coming to town, just as they didn't care that the Pirates wandered by for the first time since the 1960 Series. That nostalgia and the "ooh, we're playing the ____" feelings are not for Yankees' fans. Why? Because those are issues for the NL teams, all of whom wish they had even 40% of the Yankees' championship totals. Harsh, but true.

This weekend, FOX gets the Yankees-Cubs Saturday game and it's the pitching matchup for the ages: journeyman Glendon Rusch against rookie Chien-Ming Wang. Real headliners. Tonight, it's Zambrano/Pavano in a rematch of . . . absolutely nothing because they themselves didn't start against each other in the Marlins-Cubs NLCS in 2003 (Zambrano had games 1 and 5, Pavano game 6). On Sunday, Moooooooooooose goes against Sergio Mitre, the unknown who is almost single-handedly plugging the holes in the Cubs' rotation.

And your two notes for the weekend: (1) the Cubs are 34-30 despite a shattered bullpen and major injuries to Wood and Prior; the Yanks are 33-32 despite a top-of-his-game Rivera and ARod, healthy Pavano/Johnson/Moooooooooose and healthy Jeter; (2) the Yanks are 2-9 in three-game series against teams with a .500 record or better -- they've swept no one and have an overall 12-21 record in those series. The only one they've won since the opening series against the BloSax was their series last month against the Mess.

Israel pushed Iraq War - Not bloody funny

This is such a disgrace that even a shill like Dana Milbank can't defend it (to his credit he doesn't really try other than one feeble attempt). House Democrats, led by inveterate moonbat John Conyers (D-Michigan), decided to hold a 'mock' impeachment trial of President Bush based on 'falsehoods' related to the Iraq war. It was such fun that the ordinarily sensible Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)--about whom the less said the better--joined for the festivities which were aired on C-SPAN.

...The session took an awkward turn when witness Ray McGovern, a former intelligence analyst, declared that the United States went to war in Iraq for oil, Israel and military bases craved by administration "neocons" so "the United States and Israel could dominate that part of the world." He said that Israel should not be considered an ally and that Bush was doing the bidding of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"Israel is not allowed to be brought up in polite conversation," McGovern said. "The last time I did this, the previous director of Central Intelligence called me anti-Semitic."

Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), who prompted the question by wondering whether the true war motive was Iraq's threat to Israel, thanked McGovern for his "candid answer."

Right off the pages of the Democratic Underground.

And to top it off:

At Democratic headquarters, where an overflow crowd watched the hearing on television, activists handed out documents repeating two accusations -- that an Israeli company had warning of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and that there was an "insider trading scam" on 9/11 -- that previously has been used to suggest Israel was behind the attacks.

At the Democratic headquarters???!?? And this morally bankrupt party wonders why it keeps losing elections?

Sid Goldberg, RIP

We mentioned the death of Sid Goldberg, father of Jonah of NRO fame/infamy last week. Today, NRO posted the eulogy Jonah prepared for his pa.

Mind vitamin of the day

David Gelertner, himself a victim of terrorism (the Unabomber), tears Dick Durbin a new one, and deservedly so.


Ignorance of history destroys our judgment. Consider Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill), who just compared the Guantanamo Bay detention center to Stalin's gulag and to the death camps of Hitler and Pol Pot — an astonishing, obscene piece of ignorance. Between 15 million and 30 million people died from 1918 through 1956 in the prisons and labor camps of the Soviet gulag. Historian Robert Conquest gives some facts. A prisoner at the Kholodnaya Gora prison had to stuff his ears with bread before sleeping on account of the shrieks of women being interrogated. At the Kolyma in Siberia, inmates labored through 12-hour days in cheap canvas shoes, on almost no food, in temperatures that could go to minus-58. At one camp, 1,300 of 3,000 inmates died in one year.

* * *
There is an ongoing culture war between Americans who are ashamed of this nation's history and those who acknowledge with sorrow its many sins and are fiercely proud of it anyway. Proud of the 17th century settlers who threw their entire lives overboard and set sail for religious freedom in their rickety little ships. Proud of the new nation that taught democracy to the world. Proud of its ferocious fight to free the slaves, save the Union and drag (lug, shove, sweat, bleed) America a few inches closer to its own sublime ideals. Proud of its victories in two world wars and the Cold War, proud of the fight it is waging this very day for freedom in Iraq and the whole Middle East.

If you are proud of this country and don't want its identity to vanish, you must teach U.S. history to your children. They won't learn it in school. This nation's memory will go blank unless you act.

Read it all.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Slander in the Senate

Simply stated, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is the worst kind of useful idiot for the terrorists. Equating temperature adjustments and loud music at Gitmo Bay (where the terrorists held there have, on average, GAINED weight and become healthier) with the Gulag system in the USSR or the Nazis is the worst kind of slander against the men and women of the Armed Forces who have gone above and beyond the call of any international standards (which actually allow the US to kill these terrorists on sight).

We've discussed the insidious thought process that leads the hyperbolic types on the Left to draw these false parallels on many occasions, including here, here and here.

The US record on Guantanamo Bay should be the envy of any country that pretends to concern itself with human rights. It has scrupulously avoided insult to the Islamic beliefs of the prisoners (to an excessive degree), has provided accommodations, board, and facilities that exceed the conditions most prisoners lived in at home. And the "abuses" that Durbin cited have been unearthed by US armed forces investigators. In other words, the world's policeman has policed itself.

Thus, Patrick Ruffini is right to draw this parallel:

The GOP should not be afraid to "go public" on otherwise arcane national security issues that can be used to reinforce the perception of Democrats as hopelessly lost on the war. When your opponents are playing the role of prison rights advocates for fanatical terrorists, reminiscent of the shills for big screen TVs and gyms in every jail, then the argument is pretty easy to make.

Saying that the US treatment of prisoners in Gitmo or Abu Ghraib is equivalent to the treatment that Saddam inflicted, which Durbin declared is the case, means that the person making the comparison has neither shame nor a meaningful grasp on reality. And that's because the US troops don't do any of this.

Durbin is an embarrassment. Our troops are heroes.


Liberal vs. Conservative blogs

Chris Bowers, a liberal blogger, [myDD] has done a bit of interesting analysis on why liberal blogs have significantly overtaken conservative blogs based on blogads statistics. Read it here.

His thesis, basically, is that many liberal blogs are community oriented, are more inclusive, are much more heterogeneous and therefore interesting. Conservative blogs, he posits, tend to be standalone and aloof with most not even allowing comments.

Jonathan Last has thoughts here and some of the comments make valid counterpoints. Specifically the impact of conservative blogs has been quite significant whereas liberal blogs have had little or no impact and are largely angry 'circlejerks' with rants that appeal only to like-mineded readers.

Worth reading.

HT: The Corner

Durbin: US Army = Nazis and Pol Pot

The Guantanamo garbage continues. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) compares US troops at Gitmo to Nazis for:

Durbin read an FBI report into the record that contained this:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees.

Durbin added:

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.

Frankly denial of toilet facilities and uncomfortably hot or cold conditions are not nearly comparable to what these scum have and would do to Americans and ordinary Iraqis when given the chance. Nice job, DICK.

Drug Canards - MUST READ

Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council for Science & Health, has an illuminating piece in the NRO today on dangers of cheap drug importation.

Everyone knows that pharmaceuticals are less expensive in Canada and most European countries than they are here. But most people do not know why there is a price gap, or they conclude that American companies are simply greedy and are jacking up the price here to take advantage of the relative affluence of our citizens, charging Americans far in excess of the "real" cost of the drug.
The reason that Rx drugs cost less in countries like Canada is that international laws on commerce treat prescription drugs differently from other consumer products. U.S. pharmaceutical companies are required under a 1994 treaty to sell their drugs at drastically cut prices to countries with drug price controls. Any pharmaceutical company that fails to comply can be punished by having its patent protection taken away. It is as if you were selling books in the United States for $10 and when you offered them to Canada, officials there told you that they would either give you $4 or violate your intellectual property rights and make copies of the book without your permission, in the name of educating Canadians.

To comply with this treaty, drug companies slash prices for countries with price controls, which means most countries in the developed world. The purchasing countries in this "deal" are supposed to agree not to turn around and resell the drugs to Americans. That means all the state programs to "reimport" drugs are illegal, but the law is almost never enforced — and as you read this the Senate and House are considering bills that make importation completely legal.

The United States, which does not currently have price controls, produces nearly 90 percent of the world's supply of new pharmaceuticals. Countries with price controls do not produce any significant supplies of new drugs — instead, the innovators have fled to the U.S., where they have the protection of the free-market system and protection for intellectual property they create. At least, today they come here.

1994 Treaty - Clinton administration - hm.

Remember the flu vaccine 'shortage' imbroglio last year that the Left was trying to hang on President Bush. There's a cautionary tale here.

There are decades of observations indicating that countries with pharmaceutical price controls do not produce new products. Indeed, here in the U.S. there are already virtual price controls on one segment of the pharmaceutical industry — vaccines — and we see one company after another abandoning this area of production. Given that governments purchase vaccines at discount prices, there are few incentives for companies to remain in the business. The disappearing vaccine industry is a harbinger of what will come if price controls are put in place on all drugs.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Conscience of Europe

That's what Vaclav Havel has become and the Continent should be embarrassed by its appeasements.

Havel's op-ed in today's WaPo salutes Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese dissident agitating for freedom and democracy who's been confined to house arrest by the Burmese junta, and excoriates the rest of the Euros for failing the dissidents in Cuba and China. Some excerpts:

Aung San Suu Kyi is still kept under strict house arrest, and the Burmese generals have fortified themselves even more against any attempts at a dialogue. A dialogue? To conduct a dialogue with a regime that consistently disdains basic human rights and freedoms -- that uses arms instead of words and harassment and violence instead of discussion -- probably does not make any sense.

This is something that the European Union recently learned the hard way when it thought -- partly out of naivete, partly out of expediency -- that a more forthcoming attitude toward Fidel Castro's regime would lead to a more forthcoming attitude on the part of Castro toward his political prisoners and dissent in general. But Castro made a fool of the E.U. He released a few critically ill prisoners, secretly jailed some others and did not let some European parliamentarians into the country. Those parliamentarians who somehow managed to slip in were unceremoniously expelled.

* * *
Even a decade and a half after the fall of communism there, the citizens of Central and Eastern Europe still vividly remember that their communist rulers made the same arguments. Abuses of human rights and freedoms have never been and will never be solely internal affairs of any country. As someone who years ago experienced firsthand the arbitrary rule of a dictatorial regime but then lived to see better times -- to a large extent because of the international solidarity extended to us -- I appeal to all those who have the opportunity to act against such arbitrary acts to express their solidarity with people who to this day live in a state of "unfreedom."

The Great Verducci and The Monk

Tom Verducci is one of the best baseball journos working today (right up there with Peter Gammons and ahead of the rest of the ESPNers other than Olney). And it's true, we think alike.

Case in point. Last night The Monk was reviewing the Yankees' lineup and thinking to himself: that's a lot of dead space after Matsui (batting 5th); no wonder they suck.

And then I switch over to the Yahoo! Sports columnists page and see Verducci blasting the Yanks for one of the worst offensive outfielders ever (Tony Womack) and the blackholeinthelineup that is Giambi (.340-range slugging for a former 40+ HR hitter!).

But every now and again, Verducci slips up and as a supportive fan, The Monk will help. Today, in his mailbag Verducci defends the NL East where every team is thisclose to first place. Said Tommy V: "Any time you have a division in which any team can win it, I consider that a strong division." Response: 1973 NL East, home of the worst team ever to go to the World Series, the 82-79 Mess.

As for this year's NL East: every one has reasons they won't win. Washington is too young, rotation won't hold; Atlanta is too old, rotation frayed, relief sucks; the Mess are who they are, need a bat and bullpen help; Phils are chokers who lack rotation strength; Marlins need a coupla bats. Something's gotta break.

One last baseball note: as stupid as the Yanks were to sign Jared Wright in the offseason, at least they didn't get Eric Milton. Milton was allegedly courted by the Yanks for some inane reason after his 4.75 ERA in the NL last year. Then the idiotic Reds signed that homer-serving pitcher for their Great American Smallpark. Result? Milton's ERA is 7.97; he's given up 22 HR in just 75.2 IP and amazingly allowed 10 in less than 30 IP on the road! He's so bad, he cannot even get a reverse Coors effect (pitch better outside the bandbox)!

Yanks dumb, Reds dumber.

The End of Europe

Robert Samuelson writes about the end of Europe in the Washington Post today.

Ever since 1498, after Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and opened trade to the Far East, Europe has shaped global history, for good and ill. It settled North and South America, invented modern science, led the Industrial Revolution, oversaw the slave trade, created huge colonial empires, and unleashed the world's two most destructive wars. This pivotal Europe is now vanishing -- and not merely because it's overshadowed by Asia and the United States.

The combination of low birth rates and a rapidly aging population (a 'demographic death spiral' as I think Mark Steyn called it) combined with socialist welfare states has dramatically cut Euro-zone growth from 3% to 1% in a generation while unemployment has risen from 2% to 9%. Most of this isn't new (certainly Monk and I have highlighted it) but two points struck me:

1. With high unemployment benefits, almost half of Western Europe's jobless have been out of work a year or more; the U.S. figure is about 12 percent. Or take early retirement. In 2003 about 60 percent of Americans ages 55 to 64 had jobs. The comparable figures for France, Italy and Germany were 37 percent, 30 percent and 39 percent.

2. Indeed, some scholarly research suggests that high old-age benefits partly explain low birthrates. With the state paying for old age, who needs children as caregivers? High taxes may also deter young couples from assuming the added costs of children.

With regard to 1., Americans are actually working longer and the retirement age will likely rise in the coming years. 2. has a certain compelling logic to it. If you follow the argument that children were assets in an agrarian economy and become much less so in an urban economy a generous welfare state could significantly reduce the propensity to have children. High taxes, which reduce real income, are a further disincentive. If you incent suboptimal activity, well you get suboptimal activity. I've always admired the Singaporean solution [which many will equate with eugenics or genocide] where they give tax BREAKS to qualified couples who have a THIRD child. It's a very good idea -- real, hefty tax breaks to MARRIED couples who have a third child in Europe could go a reasonable way to counteracting the demographic death spiral. And to prevent folks from gaming the system, benefits decline rapidly if the couple divorces.